Some people uncork a fine bottle of wine to celebrate a special occasion. Samantha Swan prefers to crack open a 20-year-old jar of her grandfather’s pepper relish. The coveted relish was made using cayenne peppers grown in the front yard of her family’s home on Cottage Lane in Chapel Hill.
Since 2011, Cottage Lane Kitchen has produced “Get Me a Switch!,” a sweet and spicy pepper relish based on Swan’s family recipe. Swan and her husband are one of the growing number of food entrepreneurs who have found success by catering to consumers interested in buying locally produced products.
Her hard work is paying off. You can now find “Get Me a Switch!” and the company’s other relish, “Cape Fear,” in more than 70 stores across North Carolina, Maryland and Massachusetts. Swan attributes her success to a great product, a little luck and marketing assistance from the department.
“Timing is everything; with the local-food movement; with people wanting to support local businesses; and the Department of Agriculture being there to support us as well. It seems like artisanal, local products have really taken off here.”
The department offers several services to help beginning and established food businesses. Some of those services include roundtable discussions with other food entrepreneurs, networking events with wholesale and retail buyers, inbound trade missions and annual conferences.
Swan has taken advantage of most of those opportunities, as well as the annual Flavors of Carolina show. Flavors of Carolina is an invitation-only event held in Charlotte and Raleigh for food businesses and food buyers. This is Swan’s second year attending Flavors of Carolina.
Each year, the shows attract a variety of buyers including Whole Foods, Food Lion, Harris-Teeter and Sysco. The Raleigh show, held March 6, had a record attendance. The Charlotte show, which is scheduled for March 19 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, will have about 100 vendors.
“Flavors has been great because I was just knocking on people’s doors for retail,” Swan said. “Last year, it was just a one-stop. I got to meet all the people that I had been knocking on their door.”
For more information on how you can participate in the Flavors of Carolina food show, contact Myrtle Earley in our Marketing Division.